The alligator is the only animal in Florida that hunters kill in expectation of a financial reward. The skin and flesh of dead alligator's is often sold to processors who wait at the docks for hunter's boats to return.
A brutal hunt
The suffering of alligators during Florida's public hunt is undeniable. Harpoons and crossbows are popular weapons used to attach a restraining line to an alligator. The use of snatch hooks (weighted, treble hooks attached to a line and used to puncture the alligator's skin) and baited wooden pegs are also commonly used. The short, wooden pegs are attached to a line, baited with beef lung or road kill and then thrown out into the water. Once an alligator swallows the bait, the hunter retrieves the line and the peg gets caught in the alligator's throat.
After being harpooned or hooked, the alligator is fought to exhaustion (the suffering animal often fights to escape for more than an hour), drawn close to the boat, and killed by lowering his or her head beneath the water and firing a bangstick (bangsticks discharge a firearm cartridge on contact). Hunters describe how, upon firing this device "blood colors the water a cloudy red."
Regulations state that alligators must be killed before being dragged into a boat, but the improper placement and discharge of the bangstick frequently renders the alligator only temporarily unconscious. Without having the spinal cord severed and the brain destroyed, the alligator is left to suffer long after being pulled from the water. Because of the difficulty of humanely killing an alligator, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) advises hunters, "Never assume an alligator is dead."
In 2008, the owner of a marina in southwest Florida described a cruel reality of the alligator hunt: "wounded gators bloated and floating in the lake, and others swimming around with arrows sticking from their heads."(Fort Myers News-Press) In June 2007, ARFF attended an FWC meeting during which a nuisance alligator trapper had strong words of criticism for participants in Florida's public hunt. He told of witnessing hunters showing up at processing facilities after the hunt with alligators who were severely injured but still alive.
You can help
– Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in response to articles about "nuisance" alligators or Florida's alligator hunt is a great way to encourage compassion for these much-maligned animals. Contact ARFF for tips on writing letters to the editor.